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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 23:28 GMT
UN: Iraq must be pro-active
UN inspectors take notes at Natural Gas Establishment in Beji
It will take inspectors months to verify Iraq's arsenal
The heads of the United Nations weapons inspections say Iraq needs to provide "pro-active" co-operation with the teams searching for banned weapons.

Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei briefed the Security Council on Thursday, saying: "We are inching forward, however we indicated we need more pro-active support".

Iraqi weapons declaration
Omissions in the declaration are a material breach, says the US
Mr Blix, head of the Unmovic monitors, has complained that the declaration issued by Baghdad last month on its weapons programmes leaves many questions unanswered.

US ambassador John Negroponte insisted that these omissions constituted a "material breach" of the Security Council resolution.

"There is still no evidence that Iraq has changed its attitude," he added.

And US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said "the failure of Iraq to co-operate is becoming more and more clear".

"There is no indication they have made a strategic decision to disarm," he told reporters.

BBC News Online's world affairs correspondent, Paul Reynolds, says Thursday's comments mean opening the gates to facilities will not be enough and Iraq will have to get into the real business of accounting for missing material.

Interviews

Mr El Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said one example of Iraq's failure to co-operate pro-actively was the fact that his inspectors had not been able to conduct interviews privately.

Iraq, while insisting that its weapons declaration is complete, says it is willing to clarify any questions from the inspections team.

"We welcome any questions put forward ... but we expect these questions to be relevant to the outstanding issues," said Iraq's General Hossam Mohammed Amin.

Iraq has sent a letter to the UN, complaining that the UN's inspectors are overstepping the mark, and are carrying out "unjustified questioning".

Hidden smoke

Ahead of the briefing, Mr Blix said that in the two months of inspections, his team had not found any "smoking gun" of evidence.

The 27th will not necessarily produce something new or dramatic

UK ambassador Jeremy Greenstock
Nonetheless, the White House insisted that Iraq has weapons banned by the United Nations.

"The problem with guns that are hidden is you can't see their smoke," said spokesman Ari Fleischer.

"We know for a fact that there are weapons there."

Mr Blix and Mr El Baradei were giving the Security Council an update on their progress ahead of a 27 January deadline for a fuller report on the inspections.

The UK ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said the inspectors "need to build up the intensity of what they're doing - they need more time".

"The 27th will not necessarily produce something new or dramatic," he added.

Military build-up

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says it may well be that part of the reason for this new relaxed attitude is the length of time it is taking for all the military arrangements to be made.

An example of difficulties being faced by the military planners, he says, is the fact that Turkey has still not given permission for US ground troops to use Turkish bases on their way to Iraq.

Even if permission comes, it would take more than a month for the bases to be prepared.

However, the military build-up continued on Thursday, with the first long-range B-1 bombers leaving their base in South Dakota.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Greg Barrow reports from the UN
"The strategy to disarm Iraq appears to be shifting"
  Chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix
"The declaration failed to answer a great many questions"

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09 Jan 03 | Middle East
09 Jan 03 | Country profiles
09 Jan 03 | Middle East
09 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Middle East
11 Dec 02 | Americas
09 Jan 03 | Politics
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